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Ai, ai, ai, AI

Minds, Lies and Materials

Research into the materiality and environmental impact of AI with Tim Cowlishaw

Courses and workshops

Artificial intelligence feeds on data, human work, and large amounts of energy and water. In this workshop we’ll investigate the material elements and environmental impact associated with the operating of AI.

Artificial intelligence might seem like something abstract, immaterial—a disembodied mind that exists in a cloud with no concrete place or material existence. But behind this technology is a material infrastructure that has significant consequences for the planet. According to several studies, AI feeds on our data, human creativity and the labour of precarious workers. It also needs large amounts of energy and water to operate, and lives in data centres, huge industrial buildings that pollute the environment.

Yet the companies behind AI have fostered a liberating saviour image of technology as capable of helping us tackle the big environmental challenges and emancipating us from all kinds of drudgery. Is it possible to find meaning in these contradictory statements?

In this workshop we’ll be looking at what’s behind AI: the data, the work, the energy and the water it needs to run. For each of these resources, we’ll investigate and compare what AI needs and its environmental consequences, learning and using research techniques that allow us to uncover this material layer of the technology. We’ll compare this with other research, with statements made by AI companies in press releases and social responsibility statements, and also with pronouncements made by AI itself. In this way, we will map not just the material traces of AI, but also the controversies it raises.

Participants: Tim Cowlishaw

This activity is part of AI: Artificial Intelligence, Ai, ai, ai, AI

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AI: Artificial Intelligence

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